On Mentors

Dadaji, my paternal grandfather, is my inspiration to become a prolific writer.  He wrote incessantly, day in, day out.  He was an editor for his father-in-law (my grandmother’s) successful publishing company.  He gave his whole life to the editorial process.  The love for grammar is a part of me, it’s in my blood.

Dadaji also taught me how to love to read.  He never said a word.  It was probably the way he devoured every last word of every last book, perhaps his extensive library – mainly filled with science fiction and books of jokes mixed in with philosophy, self-help, and yoga.  He never told me that picking up a good pen and filling up a crisp notebook is one of the most beautiful things I would love to do, but by watching him, even before I could write a full sentence, i was filling up entire notebooks, walls (yes – I thought all walls were chalkboards, naturally, but that is another story).

One of our last times with each other in 2001, only months before he passed away, sitting in our Bombay home, he told me that I should aspire to win the Nobel Prize.  At the time, I was a late teenaged girl with dwindling self-esteem who was sidetracked by a mediocre New Jersey life with no precedent for this kind of overt ambition around me, I laughed, “Dadaji, that’s just not possible!”  Here was a prolific man who had won countless awards, had mastered astrology and bodybuilding in his late 20’s (random, but he was, in my eyes, a renaissance man in his own way), sitting in front of me in his post-cancerous state, approaching his final days.  My greatest mentor, my greatest champion – and I never understood then how much he would come to mean to me in the years that followed.

At the time, I didn’t heed his advice, I rested on my laurels of being known as a “good writer”, soon falling into my own fault lines.  Over the next decade, while from time to time my ability to write, my ability to be prolific came through, my writing muscle largely remained untrained, and soon dwindled.  I can blame having the wrong classes, choosing the wrong college, the distractions and minutiae of making things happen and losing steam to actually do what matters… but in 10 years, I also know that that is just life.  It’s what happens while you’re busy making plans.

That’s the thing about the people who change your life.  So many things are left unsaid.  There are no formal lessons for the good things.   It’s what they do in the meantime that forms your worldview. It’s what they say, read, write. It’s the things they never say to you. It’s their steadfast conviction in you – not relentless advice. It’s when they live their life fully and are prolific themselves – that is what changes you.

Here I am, over a decade later. My life did not happen as I’d “planned”. But so much of what has happened has far-exceeded my expectations. The one thing that always juts out at me is the power of stellar writing. Now is the time for me to become articulate, write daily, remove the cobwebs, learn/re-learn/practice the craft, and do the thing I love the most in this world: write.

My goal is to become a stellar writer, to inspire you to tell your story, to gain your respect, and, yes, to win a Nobel Prize.

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